Broadcaster Alan Jones has landed in hot water over comments he made on his 2GB morning radio slot, with the nation’s media watchdog finding Jones not only got his facts wrong on climate science but also bungled a subsequent apology.
The comments were made in in September 2013, during a discussion with fellow right-winger and man-made climate change sceptic Andrew Bolt.
An Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation – delayed by a Federal Court case but publicly determined today – found that Jones’ statements “were specific, unequivocal, capable of independent verification,”… and patently untrue.
In his defence, Jones’ employer – Harbour Radio, the licensee for Radio 2GB – argued that the September 24 report “was based on material from a mainstream media source”, and therefore reasonably supportable as being accurate.
That was their first mistake.
The media outlet Jones relied on was predominately The Australian, which had also got its facts wrong a week earlier, issued a correction three days before Jones’ own erroneous broadcast.
The controversial broadcaster’s factually inaccurate claims had their genesis in a media storm which engulfed the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after a draft was leaked in the lead up to the organisation’s fifth report.
Significantly behind the media pack, weighing in eight days after the Australians’ initial (mis)report, Jones claimed that in their yet to be released paper the IPCC conceded they had “got it wrong by about 100 per cent”.
The content of the IPCC report Jones was pre-empting was complex, and science-based, but ACMA said the gist of his error “centred on the revised figure of global warming and the erroneous comparison of this figure with a rate of global warming from the 2007 report”.
As it turned out, the IPCC had got it almost exactly right, and the 2013 report supported earlier findings from 2007.
ACMA’s investigation into Jones reiterated that contrary to his employers’ submissions, “any assessment of reasonableness [of relying on reports in mainstream media]must also take account of credible material that throws doubt on the accuracy of such a source and whether the source remains relevant”.
Had he also read the Weekend Australian, or perhaps the Daily Telegraph, which also ran the erroneous story about the IPCC’s draft findings, Jones would have known the truth days before he repeated their mistakes.
Instead, he claimed “the IPCC for a week has been denying it’s locked in crisis as they talk to scientists and don’t know what to do about the fact that their former theories of climate change have been disproven”.
A short time later, Jones realised that he’d created a crisis of his own. He apologised roughly an hour and a half after making the false statements, but this he also bungled.
In its report, ACMA said that Jones’ apology was more “confusing” than clarifying.
Chief amongst the issues was an “absence of a clear reference to the incorrect statements and a clear connection between them and the correction”.
“The matter [was]further obscured by the reference in the correction to his earlier comments being based on a report in The Australian, when there was no reference to The Australian in the earlier incorrect statements.”
The most egregious statements Jones made “were neither referred to nor corrected” and “the correction included additional material that is both confusing and undermines the significance of the correction”.
The watchdog’s report into Jones’ errors had been delayed by a Federal Court challenge, brought by Harbour Radio, which sought to challenge ACMA’s right to investigate the matter. The judgement came down in favour of ACMA.
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